Weekly Devotional

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy?

Recently, it’s been feeling like the world is spiraling into chaos.

I keep thinking, “Who in the world do we trust when everyone in the world seems to be going crazy?”

At our core, we live in a body of flesh, and that flesh is at war with the Spirit of God. We betray God, each other, and even ourselves.

How do we find peace in the midst of such turmoil and distrust, anger and failure, disagreement and violence?

First: we let the Scripture remind us that God is actually in control.

Second: we let the Bible remind us that we aren’t the only ones who aren’t crazy.

And third: we choose to fear God, and to let him (not our circumstances) be the source of our peace.

It’s easy to get depressed when people consistently disappoint you. Friends attack you, public figures betray your trust, and family fails to be the peace you hope for.

Remember when Elijah was running for his life from Jezebel, who was sending people out to kill him?

He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” – 1 Kings 19:10

And do you remember how God responded?

He said that there were seven thousand in Israel who had remained faithful.

And how did he say it? In a gentle whisper.

All the bluster God sent before that gentle whisper (the powerful wind that broke rocks, the earthquake, and then the fire) were to show Elijah that he was in control. The gentle whisper was to show him who he was to Elijah, and that Elijah wasn’t the only one.

There are always people who are faithful. Always those who are striving to live a blameless life. Always those who are humble and kind, and gentle and filled with love.

Even when it feels like they’ve all disappeared.

And even when it seems like the world is out of control, God is in control, and he is the one we truly should fear – not our circumstances.

This is why, in times like these, Scripture becomes the rock I cling to.

King David wrote in Psalm 101 about love and justice, and those who are faithful. When it read it the other day, it suddenly seemed so clear that he dealt with the same garbage we deal with today.

Let the words of that Psalm wash over you. I hope it refreshes you as it has refreshed me.

“I will sing of steadfast love and justice,

to you, O LORD, I will make music.

I will ponder the way that is blameless.

Oh when will you come to me?

I will walk with integrity of heart

within my house;

I will not set before my eyes

anything that is worthless.

I hate the work of those who fall away;

it shall not cling to me.

A perverse heart shall be far from me;

I will know nothing of evil.

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly

I will destroy.

Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart

I will not endure.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,

that they may dwell with me;

he who walks in the way that is blameless

shall minister to me.

No one who practices deceit

shall dwell in my house;

no one who utters lies

shall continue before my eyes.

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all the evildoers

from the city of the Lord.”

God promises that what he gives us is so much better than what we can get in this world that we can be at peace even when everything good in the world seems gone.

So cling to him. Dive into the Psalms and let its truths wash over you. Trust God, fear him instead of this world, and know that you’re not the only one.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

God, thank you for being trustworthy and merciful to us. Thank you for promising to be our shelter in turbulent times. Thank you for giving us your Word to be our wisdom when we don’t see the way. Guide us through these difficult circumstances, and protect us as we strive to follow you faithfully. Let us be gentle like you. Keep us from accidentally (or worse, intentionally) slandering others, or from being haughty and arrogant. Instead, humble us and give us the strength to be merciful and kind to others! Amen.

DIG DEEPER

Read through Psalm 101 again and write out the specific traits that King David puts in the good category, and in the bad category. Then take active steps to avoid the bad category this week, and to embody the good category.

God’s Wisdom is Gentle – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

God's wisdom is gentle

When I was a kid and I heard someone promoting a false idea, I enjoyed pointing out their error and arguing about it. 

I thought I was wise and spiritual. Really, I was just a punk.

I justified it by saying, “Poor theology is dangerous, so it’s my duty to put them in their place.”

But let’s see what Scripture has to say about this.

James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

What becomes clear even from these few verses is that the entire way I went about “putting people in their place” was evil.

The “wisdom” I was sharing was not coming from a pure motivation. I wanted to be “right,” and to show others they were wrong. It was motivated by pride.

Next, I wanted conflict, not peace. And there was nothing gentle about the way I spoke to people.

I wasn’t open to reason. I was dogmatic. “It’s this way, period. Get over it.”

Neither was I full of mercy or good fruit. I hardly lived out anything I “believed.”

As such, I wasn’t impartial or sincere. I didn’t hold myself to the standard of the text, and I didn’t live it out.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this is that I still wondered why my life didn’t bear out the righteousness the Scripture talked about.

Yeesh! I see now the “wisdom” I was hitting people over the head with wasn’t wisdom at all. I am sorry to everyone I ever did this to!

The truth is, this sort of behavior short-circuits God’s work in our lives. And it’s not anywhere near as effective as we think it is.

God is offended when we treat people poorly. And so are the people we’re mistreating.

Instead of pointing out each others’ errors simply because we feel the urge to correct, God’s wisdom urges us to find the right time and the right way to correct error no more harshly than is needed.

If we truly know God, we will be kind like him. We will not be prideful, but instead will treat others as infinitely valuable.

James 4:6-8 says, “’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

You and me, we’re sinners. We need our hearts and hands purified.

We’re often double-minded in our affections (we serve our own glory, then sometimes God’s glory), and we daily need to bring our focus back to the God who made us for himself.

It’s true that nearly all spiritual growth happens slowly. My growth in this area has been far slower than I feel comfortable admitting. But that’s the reality we have to face, as human beings.

This feels like a goal I’ll be chasing my whole life. But thank God, his wisdom is gentle. And the way he teaches us to be kind to others is both merciful and kind.

He urges us to spend time with him, learning from him what is true and good by his own example of how he treats us.

When we spend time with him, his Spirit changes our own spirit from contentious to peaceable.

Because when we experience peace with Christ, he empowers us to seek peace with others.

When we give up our affections to claim Christ as our most precious treasure, he purifies our hearts to enjoy healthy relationships with others.

A life rooted in and focused on Christ is a life of fullness, peace, and gentle wisdom.

And as he frees us from our fleshly passions, we are actually empowered to correct and teach more effectively in ways that honor and uplift.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Lord, fill us with your gentle wisdom. Train our hearts to desire peace with you and others. To speak gently. To be merciful like you are merciful to us. To be sincere and open to reason. As we spend our days loving you, keep our affections undivided. Be our treasure, Jesus! Our most precious reward. Destroy our bitter anger, jealousy, and contentiousness, and replace it with your Spirit of goodness. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

If you struggle with being contentious, like me, this week, memorize James 3:17-18 and recite it in your mind when someone says something that riles you up. Sometimes silence is a better choice in the moment than to speak our minds. We need time to practice this. This is part of God’s wisdom, too.

PS: Next week we’ll be finishing up the series of meditations on Ephesians (meditations in this case meaning “thoughts”). In case you missed the others in the series, check them out here:

I Made Too Much Oatmeal – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

i made too much oatmeal

The other day, I poured a cup of rice milk into my teapot, heated it to a boil, and poured it over a bowl of instant oatmeal (a CORONA special).

Right away, I realized I’d made a mistake. The oatmeal flakes were drowned in a sea of white because I’d used double the milk that I was supposed to.

I hadn’t read the instructions beforehand. I just assumed I knew how much was needed, and poured in a full cup without thinking.

To make up for the mistake, I did something genius: I poured in a second packet of instant oatmeal. Then started eating.

About two-thirds of the way through the bowl, my gag reflex kicked in overtime.

I ate more than I’d planned, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t choke down the last of that cardboard (I mean oatmeal).

I’d simply made too much.

Have any of you felt that way the last 6 months? Simply overwhelmed because you agreed to doing too much?

It’s easy to say, “Yes,” to doing more things. It’s much harder to “read the label” and make sure we have all the ingredients necessary to pull it off without hurting ourselves (i.e. time and energy).

When we overcommit, we’re emotionally and physically stripped of margin, so that we have little left to give to those we love most (God, family, friends).

Still, even though I know this, I find myself addicted to doing things. If I’m not busy, something’s wrong. Right?

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Taste and See that the Lord is Good – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Taste and see that the Lord is good

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8

That phrase is so familiar it’s become a cliché, drained of substance and believability.

But the core of that verse is the call to reality – to experience the substance of life itself.

You and I live mundane lives. Every pleasure in this world fades as it gets used, and all the colors fade to grey.

Have you ever woken in the morning and felt certain there was nothing facing you the rest of the day that you wanted to remain awake for?

Still, we know that there is one experience (and only one!) that grows more wonderful the more you go back to it.

It may sound odd, but God truly is the only one who never grows old.

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Meditations on Ephesians 5 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 5

If you’d like to read Ephesians 5 before reading the below Meditations on Ephesians 5, tap or click here.

Because God has replaced our death with life, he tells us to be imitators of him like a child imitates its father (v. 1). And to walk in love, like Christ loved us. 

This kind of love was shown in how he gave himself up for us. And we also are to give our lives up as an offering and sacrifice to God (v. 2). 

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Do we believe God is who he says he is? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Everyone has an opinion about who God is. But the question we should ask ourselves frequently is, “Do we believe God is who he says he is?” 

We live an opinion-saturated culture. Our feelings are our guiding force (yes, even in the Church). 

“I don’t feel like God is really that way…” 

Do you find yourself saying things like that?

I do often, even without thinking. 

When faced with the reality of what the Bible claims about God, it’s easy to think, “I don’t believe God is like that.” 

Take the idea of substitutionary atonement (the concept that Christ died on our behalf, to forgive our sins). 

More and more people are finding substitutionary atonement so distasteful that they hate the idea of it, and even hate the God who says he commanded it. 

They say, “That version of God is no more than an abusive sky-daddy.” 

But is that what God calls himself? Of course not. 

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Meditations on Ephesians 4 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 4

Who’s ready for some meditations on Ephesians 4? 🙂 I hope you’ve all had a good week.

Tap here to read Ephesians 4.

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul reminded the Ephesians of God’s incredible gift.

He also reminded them of his labor to share God’s incredible gift with them, and his imprisonment for their sake.

All of that was built up for these final three chapters of Ephesians, where he lays out how they should respond to God’s incredible offer. 

As a prisoner for God, Paul asks them to walk in a manner worthy of God’s calling on their lives (v. 1). This is a life defined by humility, gentleness, and patience. The sort of life lived out by us bearing with one another in love (v. 2). 

He urges us to remain eager to maintain close bonds of peace, because there is only one church. 

Every Christian belongs to one another, as permanent family. So, we strive to reconcile with each other in humility and gentleness (v. 3). 

There is only one Christ, and one Spirit inside all of us. We have the same hope, attached inseparably to the one call to live worthy of Christ and to bear good fruit through his Spirit (v. 4).

We share the same trust in Jesus (faith). The same Lord who commands us all to live the same kind of life.

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What do you fear? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

What do you fear? Devotional image

During this intense time, fear is being shouted from the rooftops.

So. What do you fear? 

What we put into our minds makes an impact. As a result of the bizarre events surrounding COVID-19, I’ve been craving the psalms lately as a respite from all the anxiety-inducing headlines. 

Over and over, I’ve felt the reality of Psalm 63, “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. … Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” 

At the same time, fifteen minutes after worshipping him and reading his Word, my mind returns to the anxieties that have been plaguing me. 

It does sort of make sense. I’ve been stressed about a book launch, had my whole schedule flipped, began working from home, been literally stuck in my home for nearly a month, and struggled with a chest-cough due to allergies for three weeks (it’s still there, folks – ugh). 

But I know that the peace he gives me is real, and stronger than my fears. 

So, why do the pressures return so quickly? 

I think I might know why, at least in part.

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Meditations on Ephesians 3 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 3

Before we begin: Are you all safe? Let me know in the comments below how I can be praying for you. 

If you don’t have your Bible, tap here to read Ch 3 of Ephesians on Bible Gateway.

Alright, let’s get going. 

Throughout Ephesians, Paul takes the believers in Ephesus back through the beautiful promises of the Gospel – that God has promised to save, change, empower, and reward faithful believers with a life of intimacy with him now and forever.

In each of the first three chapters, he digs through a deeper layer of this to focus on something slightly different. 

In chapter 3, he chooses to focus on the fact that he’s been imprisoned precisely because of the good news he preached to the people in Ephesus.

He refers to that good news as “the mystery of Christ.” 

What exactly is this “mystery” that he’s talking about? 

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New novel coming April 1st!

Eden book

Today is going to be a bit different. Instead of a devotional, I’m going to be sharing the first chapter from my new novel, Eden, which is launching on April 1st.

It’s without a doubt the best book in the series, and I’m very excited for its release! Because not only does it mark the release of a new book – it also marks the release of new editions of Flood and Babel with brand-new book covers.

On April 1st, you’ll get another email from me with a link to the book on Amazon. But before then. . . here’s what the book is about:

“You want me to tell of how I broke the world.” 

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